A book to remember

 

Polish psychologist and acclaimed author Ewa Woydyłło has a new book out this month. Entitled Good Memory, Bad Memory, it is her ninth publication with Wydawnictwo Literackie and—in classic Woydyłło style—it is a gentle, thoughtful and decidedly optimistic take on the self-improvement genre. The cover motto is you are what you remember and each of the featured essays and interviews addresses the ways we can begin to affect our experience of our memories, and thus effect an ability to accept life and live fully. Skewing in favor of anecdotes and common sense over checklists and study results, the overarching message is not you should but you can. And that is a philosophy I share with the writer (along with a staggering amount of DNA, because, in addition to being a psychologist and author, Ewa Woydyłło is also my mom).

I’m pleased to report that I share another neat thing with the author—namely, a sense of authorship. At the behest of the writer and publisher, I shot the book’s cover image and selected from my archive the fourteen photographic illustrations used in the text. Thus, my mom’s new book is also my photographic debut—and our first official mother-daughter collaboration.

Though my images can be described as studied and sterile, in the context of the book’s theme they may encourage an interpretation that reflects back upon their family-album origins. (Maybe it matters that the little yellow vase in the cover shot is one I bought myself at a Danish thrift shop after my soon-to-be ex didn’t buy it for me; maybe it matters that the forget-me-nots in this little yellow vase are ones I picked together with my son in the woods near our home in Warsaw, though back when I first saw that vase in the shop window, I had my heart set on raising this child not in Warsaw but in Copenhagen. And maybe it matters that today both the vase and the flowers make me feel happy, not sad—though the memories they elicit are bittersweet.) In a recursive twist, each photograph illustrating this contemplative book on memory is itself a reinterpretation of a time or place or feeling I remember. And now each has also become a document of my mom’s gracious invitation to join her in creating what is bound to be a book I never forget.

If you’re in Warsaw next Tuesday with nothing to do—join us for the inaugural event at Empik Junior at six o’clock in the evening on September 23, 2014.

All images by Natalia Osiatynska, 2006–2014.

Toward a better business strategy

Let’s talk strategy. And let’s talk progress. The latter is probably possible without the former, but you’re likely to feel as though you merely got lucky—and you’ll probably fall short of your goals. On the other hand, a well-planned strategy is pretty much a guarantee of success. (Just remember that, somewhat ironically, while you’re working on that optimal strategy, for a time it may seem as though you’re standing still.

That’s all I’m going to say about my long silence on the blog, anyway.)

I first had the opportunity to guide a small branding studio in the formulation of its company strategy years ago. More such projects followed, and each time I led a team in the act of writing down every strand of its professional DNA, the clarity this brought to the business was astonishing. All of a sudden, there would exist this logical and inspired source containing the answers to all possible questions. Now, website copy, one-pager content and employee bios were a simple copy-paste away from completion. Every tactical brief was already halfway filled out. And founders and employees were armed with honed answers to questions from potential clients and other key targets (plus they also had new knowledge of just who these people are).

In the spring, it occurred to me to take myself and my up-and-coming business through a similar professional strategy process. I was interested in defining (at long last...) my own area of expertise—and not by “finally picking a specialty” but rather by synthesizing my skills and interests into a credible, cohesive, multifaceted whole. I had struggled enough with picking a major in college and for two more decades I struggled further, assuming that there existed a narrow field just for me and my mission was to find it. This time, I was curious whether I might in fact discover a common element linking linguistics, writing, photography, design and workflow ergonomics. Thus, I decided it was worth taking the long way to the ultimate shortcut toward updating my website, pitching my business, conducting my projects and planning my career.

A good four months (and six mostly single-spaced pages) later, I’m thrilled to report that I’m blown away with my results. Not only have I found the commonalities among my different disciplines, but I’ve also realized that in each I ultimately perform a variation on the same overarching theme. Since you asked—I remove the unnecessary to reveal what is relevant. My brand values, in turn, are the following: Simplicity. Clarity. Logic. Purpose. Precision. Order. Quality. Purity. Truth. Poise. Kindness. Generosity. And just enough irony to keep things interesting.

In addition to arriving at what I think is a pretty useful mission statement and list of values, I’ve also done the vast work of distilling my education, experience and services into a highly useful dossier, and I’ve made course-altering discoveries about my category, competition, target, advantage and brand behavior.

And while I was passively and actively engaged in this illuminating process, I discovered another thing: nearly everyone I talked to about what I was doing expressed a real hunger for doing something similar for their own professional purposes. And while I’m probably surrounded by a more-then-average number of creative generalists in their forties who are still trying to figure out what they want to do when they grow up—I’m pretty sure it’s a zeitgeist thing, too. Because in the Warsaw of Plac Zbawiciela in 2014, it’s en vogue to be a this-slash-that, and it’s definitely catching on to try and be in business for yourself strategically and with mindfulness.

Another interesting thing I noted is that as I progressed through the sequence of strategic questions and prompts, I gained insight about the questions and prompts, thus developing the strategic guide itself in tandem with creating the content. Of course it’s the kind of thing that lends itself to feedback loopery every time it is deployed, so I’m not about to call it a final version, but it is a solid version, and if you’d like to give it a try and apply it to your professional brand or anything else you’d like to define, understand and render optimal—go ahead and help yourself to either language below.

And if your interested in the specifics of the Company of Natalia Osiatynska brand strategy—just let me know, and we can meet for a coffee or a Skype and I’ll walk you through it. Really, don’t be shy; I’m pretty sure this is going to be my favorite thing to talk about for a long time to come.

BRAND STRATEGY GUIDE

POMOCNIK STRATEGICZNY

Neighbors wanted

Do you love being at one with nature? Do you yearn for a serene retreat in the heart of a primeval forest less than an hour’s drive from downtown Warsaw? If your answer is yes , feel free to investigate the notice below. I can’t say much about the cabin for sale—but I can sure vouch for the neighbors down the lane, if you know what I mean.

(To be clear, I’ve never actually met the folks selling the cabin, though one time a gentleman who was visiting them did come running to help me remove an enormous spider from our kitchen sink.)

 View of the cabin for sale from our cabin’s bedroom terrace. Photo taken with the Apple iPhone 4S.

A hilltop cabin for sale along in the woods near Radzymin, Mazowieckie. Photo taken with the Apple iPhone 4S.

Disclaimer

Since I joined Facebook last winter, I  have observed a problem with the dialectic of Facebook “liking” whenever somber themes are concerned—bereavement, political unrest, tragedy. After all, the term invariably evokes an ebullience that seems out of place when one wants to appreciate the fact of a post (or pay one’s respects, as the case may be) without being overly cheerful (or cheerful in the slightest) about it. So yes, sometimes I “like” your status update, but I’m not laughing at it, not smirking, not cheering, not feeling happy when I consider what it means. Sometimes my “like” is a somber, quiet one, okay?

058758575130

The ubiquitous Polish domofon keypad features numbers with distinct tones, thus allowing for the playback of simple melodies.

The ubiquitous Polish domofon keypad features numbers with distinct tones, thus allowing for the playback of simple melodies.

This one is for the folks in Poland who enjoy the occasional pointless surprise. All you need is one of those ubiquitous black building intercom keypads and maybe a good memory for numbers, if you’re up to the challenge. Enter the digits 058758575130 in sequence and you will hear a familiar melody (possibly to the delight of a passerby who will surely think that you must be a fascinating person). And don’t worry about accidentally ringing, say, apartment 058—just use the key below the digit 9 to disconnect when you are done.

Where did I get this? A few years ago I was that impressed passerby when a guy was showing off for his date in Warsaw’s Różana. Neither of them minded when I swooped in for my little interview, and I’ve been entertaining friends and strangers with this one ever since.